Wharton, Edith Newbold Jones

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Wharton, Edith Newbold Jones,

1862–1937, American novelist, b. New York City, noted for her subtle, ironic, and superbly crafted fictional studies of New York society at the turn of the 20th cent. The daughter of a socially elect family, she was educated privately in New York and in Europe. In 1885 she married Edward Wharton, a Boston banker; after the first few years of marriage Edward Wharton became mentally ill, and the burden of caring for him fell upon his wife. Finally, in 1913, after she had settled permanently in France, Edith Wharton terminated the marriage by divorce.

Her early stories and tales were collected in The Greater Inclination (1899), Crucial Instances (1901), and The Descent of Man (1904); somewhat narrow in scope, they nevertheless show the unity of mood and the lucid, polished prose style of her more mature works. Much of her writing bears a resemblance to the fiction of Henry James, who was her close friend. However, the similarities are superficial, and in her best and most characteristic novels—The House of Mirth (1905) and The Age of Innocence (1920; Pulitzer Prize)—she asserts herself as a distinctive artist. Recreating the atmosphere of the unadventurous, ceremonious upper-class society of New York, she depicts in these and other works the cruelty of social convention, the changing fashions in morality, and the conflicts that arise between money values and moral values.

In the novella Ethan Frome (1911)—one of her best-known, most successful, and least characteristic works—Wharton evokes the tragic fate of three people against the stark background of rural New England. Among her many other novels are The Valley of Decision (1902), a historical novel of 18th-century Italy; The Custom of the Country (1913); Hudson River Bracketed (1929) and its sequel, The Gods Arrive (1932); and an unfinished work, The Buccaneers (1938). Collections of her short stories include Xingu and Other Stories (1916), Certain People (1930), and Ghosts (1937). Wharton also wrote travel books (e.g., Italian Backgrounds, 1905), books on interior design and architecture (e.g., The Decoration of Houses, 1897; Italian Villas and Their Gardens, 1904), literary criticism, and poetry. In 1915 she was awarded the Cross of the Legion of Honor by the French government for her services during World War I.

Bibliography

See her collected stories (2 vol., 2001); her autobiography, A Backward Glance (1934, repr. 1998); her letters, ed. by R. W. B. Lewis (1988); biographies by L. Auchincloss (1971), R. W. B. Lewis (1975, repr. 1985), S. Benstock (1994), E. Dwight (1994), and H. Lee (2007); studies by M. B. McDowell (1976, repr. 1991), C. G. Wolff (1977, repr. 1995), E. Ammons (1980), G. Walton (rev. ed. 1982), G. S. Rahi (1983), D. Holbrook (1991), B. A. White (1991), K. A. Fedorko (1995), C. J. Singley (1995), J. Dyman (1996), J. Beer (1997), S. B. Wright (1997), A. R. Tintner (1999), and H. Hoeller (2000).

References in periodicals archive ?
In a 1938 review of Edith Wharton's posthumously published novel The Buccaneers, Q.
When Nella Larsen, some ten years Fauset's junior, was similarly compared to Edith Wharton, she was less pleased.
Edith Wharton's place in the literary canon has been hard won.
For American scholars in Spain, and in particular for those who are interested in Edith Wharton, the publication of Edith Wharton: Back to Compostela/Regreso a Compostela is exciting news.
By examining Edith Wharton's war work during this period, the reader will see how this masculinized woman author appropriated a new kind of historical power through her reluctant volunteerism.
"Rules of Civility is like a collage of the 20th century's greatest cultural hits: a glimpse of Edith Wharton here, a wink towards Hitchcock there, a blast of Cole Porter there.
For mature readers, or students of literature, Deborah Noyes has created a fine introduction to some of the concerns of Edith Wharton and other writers who were her contemporaries, and who chose, like her, to live and write in France.
(5) Finally, Jennie Kassanoff's Edith Wharton and the Politics of Race (2004) moves towards an exploration of Wharton's "complex conservatism" (7), seeing her not so much as "thoroughly implicated" (Ammons 83) but as consciously formulating and thinking about a conservative racial politics, even developing a "racial aesthetic--a theory of language and literature that encoded a deeply conservative, and indeed essentialist, model of American citizenship" (Kassanoff 5).
Reading Edith Wharton Through a Darwinian Lens: Evolutionary Biology Issues in Her Fiction.
So when she was approached to take part in the centenary celebration for the chapel, despite being busy "polishing" her script for a new series of Upstairs Downstairs - due to be filmed this summer - and working on an adaptation of Edith Wharton's The Buccaneers, she jumped at the chance.
LIKE THE PAGES OF A PROGRESSIVE-ERA TABLOID newspaper, which collate society news, sensationalistic stories of finance and politics, and advertisements for corsets and books, Edith Wharton's The Custom of the Country (1913) juxtaposes different print messages.
"Charity at the Window: Narrative Technique in Edith Wharton's Summer" Edith Wharton: New Critical Essays.